Disclaimer: if you read the intro to the event last issue, I’d skip most of this as it is predominantly a refresh on the process and the people behind the event. Skip to the results a couple of pages in, or refresh yourself on the process behind how we judge the campers late in this feature.
After two failed attempts, we finally made it to Port Macquarie. It was wet (really, really wet) but that didn’t dampen our spirits, we were finally in Port Macquarie after two failed attempts. First there were the devastating fires of 2019 and a frankly forgettable 2020.
We chose Port Mac for its beaches, bush and relative proximity to the major camper hubs of Sydney and Brisbane. It proved ideal as we found a quiet beach in Grants Beach, great bush around Redbankway and all the amenities we needed to run the event.
For those new to CTOTY, here are the basics. Every review we run in Camper has a ten-point rating system, from Value for Money to Build Quality, Innovation and more. We’ve used these criteria for over 10 years in-mag and at CTOTY since its inception in 2014. We then invite the campers we’ve tested or know to be eligible through facelifts and upgrades, to be reviewed against these same criteria again but this time with a minimum of four experienced and vastly different judges. We then collate the scores and bingo bango, we have winners (those with the highest scores, if that wasn’t obvious).
It is a bit of fun, a hell of a lot of hard work and easily the biggest event the company puts on. This year we had a bumper entrants list, with 21 eventually making it onsite — 21 entrants is a record and posed a major challenge for hospitality and locations, as well as ensuring we had the staff to capture the details.
WHY WE HOLD THIS EVENT
The raison d'être of Camper magazine and our flagship CTOTY event is to provide the buying public with accurate, informed, and fully independent assessments of the camper trailer options which exist for them.
Why? We understand the importance of independent reviews and have done since we released our very first edition of Camper back in 2009. You, our readers, want to know the truth. You want reviews to reflect a genuine assessment of the merits and pitfalls of the camper trailer in question, and of the market as a whole.
We also know that, through accurate reporting, we can be part of the continual improvement of the industry. By reporting honestly and providing independent reviews of camper trailers, we can play our role in the continual improvement of the products that are helping Australians experience the wonderful landscapes that define this nation.
Hearteningly, our policy of honesty is welcomed by a majority of camper trailer manufacturers and certainly by all of those within these pages. Like us, they credit our readers and their buyers with intelligence. They know that, because of our reputation, the unique selling points which do earn praise from our reviewers will be taken seriously by readers.
We take it seriously too. Within our contracts are obligations of the entrants to be compliant, priced as the public will be asked to pay and readily available for purchase in Australia. Should a camper be found to break the rules, the outcome is simple — they’ll lose any award they might have earned and it gets passed onto the next highest scoring camper. We’ll also erase the content from our systems and request the same from the manufacturer.
CELEBRATING THE BEST IN THE BUSINESS
The event is a celebration of the very best camper trailers in Australia. Of course, all celebrations require a lot of background logistical work to happen at all. For the event, we organise all hospitality for manufacturers, from food to accommodation to entertainment during downtime. We run off of a carefully considered schedule that encompasses a location for judge assessment of camper trailers while set-up, to one where the judges can tow the campers offroad.
We would like to thank this year’s sponsors — REDARC, Hema Maps and Credit One Finance — and to acknowledge and thank the teams at both Mansfield Estate, Ingenia/BIG4 Bonny Hills, and Kelly Malpeston from Port Macquarie-Hastings Council for all their assistance in helping us put together the event.
WHAT CAN BE WON
Since CTOTY’s inception, we awarded wins by price point, we had under $25k, over $100k and a few price ranges between. The reality is though, that although the price is the most important factor in final purchase intentions, the style of the camper is where buyers begin their research. By this we mean, a compact buyer is unlikely to be cross-shopping with a Hybrid or a slide-on buyer with a fold-out, so we made the call to award campers by style as well as awarding standouts in the criteria we assess them by.
This meant we had a category for Folding campers, Expedition, Hybrids, Slide-on and Compacts, with the award for Value for Money, Innovation, Build Quality, Self Sufficiency and X-factor, plus the big one, the overall winner.
Getting to the results was fairly straightforward. We had our four judges work together with the campers’ representative to uncover what stood out and give a final score out of 10 for each of the 10 criteria. This gave a score out of 100, which was tallied with the other judges for a total score out of 400. The highest scoring camper of each style then took home the award. For the criteria-based awards, we totalled the scores from the judges in just these criteria to find the highest score out of the possible 40.
These criteria-based awards crossed camper style, which meant the camper that won Best Value for Money was the winner out of all 21.
Last issue we covered off nine of our finalists and a few of the winners including the big gong, the overall winner. If you missed it, here is a recap and the other winners from this issue.
Our overall winner could not have been more deserving. Ultimate has been coming to CTOTY for years and although always commendably close, had often been the bridesmaid. This year, with their 25X Anniversary Edition, they finally knocked it off, with a combined 338 out of a possible 400 points. Runner-up, and close with 335 from 400, was newcomer Offline with their innovative Domino. That’s right, four points out of a possible 400 was the difference — but it is always close and there are occasional ties, like we had this year in Build Quality which was tied between two stalwarts of CTOTY (and the local industry), Cub and Patriot Campers.
Offline’s Domino also took out Most Innovative as well as Hybrid of the Year, while CTOTY regular Bushwakka took out Expedition Camper of the Year and Value For Money, newcomer Offtrax took Compact of the Year, and Wedgetail Slide-on of the Year.
LAST MONTH'S BOOBOO
Yeah, we are not perfect. Even if the editors who fix our writing are the best looking in the industry (thanks for noticing, Tim - Editorial team), we’re all still human. We made a big and embarrassing mistake last issue. You may have noticed the Ultimate X25 is in this issue but was in the last one too. That’s because we ran the wrong specs and pricing with the review. Oops! We are truly sorry and feel pretty bad, though we are cheekily happy to hear that the phone is ringing hot at Ultimate HQ with people lining up to buy it at the price we printed, about a third of its retail. To the team at Ultimate, we are terribly sorry and to make up for it, we’ve checked the specs 17 and a half times and have rerun the review of the all-conquering Ultimate X25.
Judges rate the campers against a set of strict, long-standing criteria. Aside from a few small changes in wording, tightening of criteria and (many years ago now) the addition of extra criteria to give readers a more comprehensive picture, the way reviewers have been assessing campers has remained the same since the inception of Camper magazine.
The criteria used at the REDARC Camper Trailer of the Year event are exactly the same as those used by our reviewers throughout the year in our regular Camper issues. Across ten different measures, explained in depth below, the reviewer gives a score out of ten. For the REDARC Camper Trailer of the Year competition, these scores are then added up, to form a score out of 100. All of the four judges’ scores are then added together and divided by four, to form an averaged score out of 100, which then determines the winners of each individual category.
Fit for intended purpose
- A score of 3 or under would suggest the camper is not fit for its intended purpose
- A score of 3.5–5.5 suggests the camper can do most of what it sets out to achieve, but needs refinement
- A score of 6–8 indicates the camper is capable for its intended purpose
- A score of 8.5 or more suggests the camper surpassed expectations
- A score of 3 or less suggests the camper is poorly designed and put together
- A score of 3.5–5.5 suggests a passable run-of-the-mill design that fails to excite
- A score of 6–8 suggests an excellent upgrade to a known design or style, done well
- A score of 8.5 or more is indicative of a new design that challenges and excites expectations of what a camper can be
- A score of 3 or under would suggest you wouldn't want to, or could not, live off the beaten track
- A score of 3.5–5.5 suggests room for improvement is needed but the camper is liveable away from services
- A score of 6–8 suggests the camper is not only liveable but eminently comfortable while camping offgrid
- A score of 8.5 or more is indicative of a camper that makes you feel at home, comfortable and extremely confident, while off the beaten track.
Quality of finish
- A score of 3 or less suggests major flaws throughout the tested product
- A score of 3.5–5.5 suggests the camper carrys some minor, rectifiable cosmetic flaws
- A score of 6–8 suggests a camper with an acceptable but basic finish
- A score of 8.5 or more suggests a flawless finish of an impeccable standard
- A score of 3 or less suggests the camper has major build quality issues needing immediate attention
- A score of 3.5–5.5 is suggestive of a camper with average quality needing some refinement
- A score of 6–8 suggests the camper is well made and up to expectation
- A score of 8.5 or more is reserved for campers showcasing a faultless and innovative build
- A score of 3 or less indicates the camper felt unsafe or was extremely difficult to tow
- A score of 3.5–5.5 indicates some issues during testing that need attention
- A score of 6–8 suggest the camper towed well without issue
- A score of 8.5 or more suggests the camper not only towed well but exceeded expectations, setting a new benchmark in offroad towability
- A score of 3 or less suggests the camper is missing vital components and is uncomfortable
- A score of 3.5–5.5 would suggest the camper is as comfortable as expected but misses some key components
- A score of 6–8 suggests comfort and well-appointed features
- A score of 8.5 or more suggests the camper has a level of opulence not before seen in its class
Ease of use
- A score of 3 or less suggests the camper has critical useability issues.
- A score of 3.5–5.5 suggests the layout works but has some logical flaws
- A score of 6–8 would be for campers with a comfortable, practical and easily understandable layout
- A score of 8.5 or more suggests the layout is unique, that everything works with an ease and logic beyond expectations
Value for money
- A score of 3 or less suggests your money should be spent elsewhere
- A score of 3.5–5.5 suggests the camper is price-competitive but perhaps not great value
- A score of 6–8.5 suggests the camper is fair value for money, somewhat better than its competitors
- A score of 8.5 or more suggests the camper is exceptionally priced; there few competing with it for value
- A score of 3 or less suggests the camper is completely uninspiring in all aspects
- A score of 3.5–5.5 suggests the camper has some appeal but no more than most other campers in its class
- A score of 6–8 suggests the camper as something different, interesting and appealing
- A score of 8.5 or more suggests the camper is groundbreaking, a class apart and genuinely exciting.